The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 3

Martha Charman

The honor of being the person responsible for the building of the house that we know today as Abbey Road Studios goes to a woman! Martha Charman, a spinster, signed an agreement on September 24, 1822 to have a 4 story home built (that includes the basement and attic) on Abbey Road one week before her 43rd birthday.

Martha Charman was born on Sunday, October 1, 1775 to Peter and Elizabeth (nee Buckland) Charman in Westminster, London. She was the second oldest of six surviving children born around the time Great Britain was trying to tame the rebel colonists into submission in the new world. Her father, Peter Charman, and her older brother, also named Peter, were both jewelers in Aldgate and Piccadilly.

Martha never married, so all official records of her after the age of 18 refer to her as “Martha Charman, spinster”. Elizabeth, Martha’s younger sister, married Robert Todd, the most well-known and accomplished builder on the Eyre Estate and a best friend of Walpole Eyre. This would benefit Martha well when it came time to build the future Abbey Road Studios.

Martha’s early years are a blur, but what we do know is that after her father’s passing, she is listed as a ‘dealer in toys’ at 32 Aldgate, not far from where her father’s jewelry shop had been. We can’t be sure if her working came about because of father’s death in November 1812 since he left his entire estate, including several properties around Aldgate, to his wife Elizabeth. And, up until 1811, the toy store had been listed as being in the hands of George Shuter, toyman, on an insurance policy. In 1813, it’s insured under Martha Charman.

From 1815-1820, Martha Charman is listed as a resident at 20 Aldgate Street, another property owned by Shuter, on the tax records, but George died in 1815, so the property was probably now being managed by his widow Rebecca. Martha continued to rent the house when in February 1816, Martha and her two sisters inherited £3000 to be split between them from their Uncle Henry Reddington. Henry was their mother’s half-brother. In 2019 numbers, £3000 is worth £290,022.94, which is worth $359,909.77.

On September 22, 1822, an agreement was signed between William Hall, builder, and “Martha Charman of Grove Street in said parish of Saint Marylebone”. The address of Grove Street (which no longer exists) was an area of terraced houses at the southern tip of the Eyre Estate developed by Walpole Eyre in the early 1800s. Terraced houses in London are what Americans refer to as row homes.

There are no records as to when Martha Charman moved into Grove Street. Making the mystery even more interesting is that she is mentioned as letting a piece of land on Grove End Road on the north side of land that Robert Todd is purchasing from William Hall in a lease agreement dated April 3, 1823. So we know she was not only building homes, she was leasing multiple properties on the Eyre Estate.

Returning to the Abbey Road agreement:

“The said William Hall agrees to sell and the said Martha Charman agrees to purchase at the sum of four hundred and ninety five pounds the peppercorn lease of all that piece or parcel of ground situate and being on the south west side of a certain newly made road…”

The September 1822 agreement goes on to say that Mr. Hall will build a four story house about 36 feet square by Michaelmas (September 29) 1823 on the walled half acre property. The four story home will include an attic and basement which would be used as servants’ quarters, offices and outbuildings.

Though the agreement said the home would be built by 1823, there is no record of it being built until May 15, 1828. The lease drawing of the home and land show that two narrow, but long parcels of land were purchased and one building was put in the middle of the 92’ x 250’ property.

  • Top floor/attic contained two bedrooms for servants.
  • Second floor had seven bedrooms, the largest being 24’x16’, and a water closet/powder room.
  • Half-landing between the first and second floors there was a bathroom.
  • First floor included the dining room with a service lift to the basement, drawing room, library, morning room, study and water closet.
  • Half-basement had two servants bedrooms, the kitchen, laundry/washroom, servants dining hall, pantry and another water closet.

There is also no record of whether or not Martha Charman ever really lived at her new home on Abbey Road. As said earlier, she owned another parcel of land a small walk down Grove End Road, and in 1833, upon the death of her mother, Elizabeth, she inherited the house that she and her mother were living in at No. 4 Grove Road. At the time it was customary for women to will land to their daughters since laws always favored husbands and fathers when it came to land ownership. Martha continued this tradition in her own will when she left one of her mother’s other homes on “the north west side of Hall Place” to her niece Mary Charman. She left her home on what was now called No. 4 Grove End Road to her nephew Harry Charman. By the time of her death, the Abbey Road house will have changed hands two more times.

In an interesting side story about Martha’s father that will make sense later on in the story of 3 Abbey Road – he appeared in a book published in 1815 titled, “Memoirs and Confessions of Captain Ashe”. In an attempt to get promoted from the rank of Ensign to Captain, Thomas Ashe would try to by the favor. Ashe’s friend, Broome, “took me to a jeweller’s in Saint Jame’s Street, Mr. Peter Charman, now residing in Piccadilly, corner of Albermarle Street…” Broome lets Mr. Charman know that he has noticed Mary Anne Clark frequenting his shop and asks if there is any particular piece of jewelry that she favors. When it is decided that it is a £300 diamond necklace, Broome instructs Charman to gift the necklace to her and charge it to Thomas Ashe. And ask Miss Clark “…if she will undertake to promote our friend Ashe from his ensigncy in the Fencibles, to a company in a regular regiment of foot…” She apparently had the ear and the heart of the Duke and he “made a merit of doing the most outrageous things at her suggestion.” Needless to say, after the whole monstrosity played out, Mary Anne Clark was one diamond necklace richer and Thomas Ashe was £300 poorer. Peter Charman didn’t fare well either because he had lost $170 in credit he had given Ashe based on his supposed promotion in the Army. This theme of buying favors will play out again at 3 Abbey Road in the early 1900s.

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 14 with Ivor Davis (Part 2)

Welcome back to episode 14 of I Saw The Beatles! This week is Part 2 of our conversation with reporter Ivor Davis who accompanied The Beatles on their tours of the United States in the mid 1960s and was with them when they met Elvis Presley in 1964. Check out Ivor’s book about his experience – The Beatles and Me On Tour

Podcast:  I Saw The Beatles – Episode 14 with Ivor Davis (pt 2) 09/20 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 2

St John’s Wood and the Eyre Estate

Over the years/decades/centuries, the area that had become known as St. John’s Wood would change hands several times as the Kings and Queens of England would take possession of the land only to have the next owner of the throne gave it away again. In the year 1238 A.D.,  King Henry III gave the land to the Knights Templar, until it was taken back by the crown. In 1323, King Edward II bestowed the land upon the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, which is the origin of the name of St. John’s Wood. In 1539, King Henry VII took it back and St. John’s Wood, which by this time was being clear of trees because of the demand for lumber, remained under control by the crown until the 18th century.

Eventually, in 1732, local, wealthy, wine merchant Henry Samuel Eyre (1676 – 1754) purchased almost 500 acres of St. John’s Wood from the Earl of Chesterfield. Never having had any children of his own, Henry would ultimately name his nephew, Walpole Eyre (1734 – 1773), as heir of the entire estate. Upon his death, Walpole would leave the entire estate to his son, Henry Samuel Eyre, Esq. (1770 – 1851).

Starting in the late 1700s, the Eyre estate would be divided up and leased out in lots ranging from a half acre to over 36 acres. The 20 acre plot of land that would eventually contain 3 Abbey Road, was originally leased to Jonathan Alderton in 1796. In total, he leased 7 plots totaling over 70 acres that ran along the west side of Grove End Road and what would eventually be Abbey Road. The land was considered a “grass farm”, meaning it was either used to grow grain or feed or it was used as grazing pastures for farm animals.

Eyre Estate map w/ 3 of Alderton’s plots
Purple line = Abbey Road
Blue line = Road to Kilburn

By 1805, the lease to the same 7 plots, plus several more, were in the hands of John Hill. According to letters held in the Westminster archives, Walpole took exception in 1806 to how Hill was caring for the fields. Walpole wrote in his letter that one of the fields was now a “soil pit” and is being used to dump “all sorts of London filth & nastiness”. Apparently, Hill had also made a road/path leading to this ‘dump’ and along the road, he built two small cottages, which Walpole claimed were against his lease. This “road” would eventually become Abbey Road.

I’ve tried to create a somewhat accurate map to show the different routes that were used to reach Kilburn Abbey. By the time Abbey Road was created, the Abbey had been destroyed. The purple line on both of the maps below mark where Abbey Road would eventually be created after the other two routes to the Kilburn Abbey.

"This work is based on data provided through and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth".

Map showing alternate routes to Kilburn Abbey in 1700s St. John’s Wood, London


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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 13 with Ivor Davis (pt 1) | Pop Culture

Welcome back to episode 13 of I Saw The Beatles! This week is Part 1 of our conversation with reporter Ivor Davis who accompanied The Beatles on their tours of the United States in the mid 1960s and was with them when they met Elvis Presley in 1964. Check out Ivor’s book about his experience – The Beatles and Me On Tour

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 13 with Ivor Davis (pt 1) 08/30 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 1

Now that I had the opportunity with last week’s post to do a lead in to what I’ve been researching for a couple years, I’ll start at the very beginning of the story behind 3 Abbey Road or as we now know it…Abbey Road Studios.

In order to understand the history of Abbey Road Studios, we need to start at the beginning with the actual Abbey Road. Obviously, one can assume by the name that it has something to do with an Abbey somewhere along the road. But, when you look at a map, there is no Abbey along the one mile stretch of Abbey Road in Middlesex. There are churches and synagogues, but no Abbeys.

The abbey that is referenced in Abbey Road was Kilburn Abbey which would have been located somewhere in close proximity to the northern end of Abbey Road. No one is quite sure of its exact location, but it was approximately 3 miles north of St. Peter’s Church (the future Westminster Abbey) and about 1.3 miles northwest of what was to become Abbey Road Studios. What we do know is that it was originally a hermitage that was built by a man named Godwyn who decided he need to get away from London during the reign of King Henry I (1100-1135). At the time, the area (that would later be called St. John’s Wood) was mostly wooded and very popular among the royals for hunting.

After many years, around 1130, Godwyn grew tired of the solitude and gave the hermitage and its land to St. Peter’s Church. There’s no record as to how Godwyn acquired ownership of the property but it’s speculated that it may have been by squatters rights. Herbert, the Abbot of Westminster, decided to give the Kilburn Priory to Emma, Gunilda, Cristina – three virginal Ladies in Waiting to the late Queen Matilda. Herbert put Godwyn the Hermit in charge of them. Not a bad gig for a hermit, eh?

That is the simple explanation of how Abbey Road got its name, and it would be nice if it were that simple. But Abbey Road isn’t the original footpath that led to Kilburn Abbey. According to a 1799 map of St. Marylebone, the original path led north along what was to become the west side of Regents Park and then turned northwest at what is now the intersection of Grove End Road and Finchley Road. There was another footpath to the Kilburn Abbey that ran north to south along what is now Hamilton Terrace.

I’ll try to create a simple map for next week’s post about the history of 3 Abbey Road…

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 12 with Dee Elias 

Welcome to Episode 12 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is Dee Elias who not only saw The Beatles 3 times, she managed to sneak up to their hotel room and meet John Lennon and Paul McCartney! Dee also wrote a book about her teenage adventures that had her meeting all types of celebrities while chasing after the Fab Four – Confessions of a Beatlemaniac!!

I Saw The Beatles – Episode 12 with Dee Elias 08/08 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture


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From Hemingway to Lennon and back again…

I’ve spent the last several months slowly reading my way through The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4. A friend of mine had sent me an article back in April 2020 that talked about some of the letters between Hemingway and his U.K. publisher, Jonathan Cape Publishing, contained in the book.

Jonathan Cape publishing was founded in London in 1921 by Herbert Jonathan Cape and his partner Wren Howard.  They would publish many notable and award winning authors, including: Robert Frost, Ian Fleming and James Joyce. The publishing house still exists today and is an imprint for Penguin/Random House.

In 1925, Jonathan Cape became Ernest Hemingway’s U.K. publisher and would publish the British editions of Hemingway’s In Our Time in 1926, followed by The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon. But Hemingway was very open about his hatred of the publishing house’s namesake. Cape would often make edits and publish Hemingway’s works without asking the author’s permission, something Hemingway was very strict about. Once Hemingway was done writing and editing a book that was it. It was finished. Period. He hated changes of any sorts, especially when they tried to remove “dirty” works or rewrite scenes that were of the deeply intimate type. Many publishers, including his own would warn him that his books could be censored due to the questionable language, but he insisted that the words remain exactly as he wrote the or the whole story would go to hell.

On page 363 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway dated 12 September 1930 from Ernest to Jonathan Cape, Ernest is busy discussing royalty payments & publishing details, along with his successful hunting expeditions (he was in Montana at the time) and writing his latest book. Paragraph 4 (out of 5) of the letter reads as follows:

With best wishes for the season, – it seems Christmas weather; snowing hard in the mountains – to you and to Mrs. Cape and, if you see her, to Norah James, and to Mr. Wren Howard-

Norah Cordner James worked for Jonathan Cape overseeing the advertising for his firm from 1921-1929. Though this is the only time in all the 5 volumes of Hemingway’s letters that Norah is mentioned, there is no doubt Hemingway would have known about her work at Cape, since he often would remark to his publisher how horribly Jonathan Cape was advertising his books, even insisting that certain ads were to be taken down or reworded.

Norah was born in Hampstead, England in September 1895, would go on to be famous author herself after leaving Jonathan Cape Publishing. Her first book, The Sleeveless Errand, garnered a lot of publicity when it was immediately banned in England for being obscene before it even hit the shelves in 1929.

In 1939, Norah wrote her autobiography – I Lived in a Democracy. In this book, she says her family moved to St. John’s Wood in 1912 when she was 17. They were the 5th family to occupy the house at 3 Abbey Road…or as it has come to be known – Abbey Road Studios. One particularly amusing story Norah tells about her time living in the house, goes like this: Once my father refused to leave his room for twenty-four hours and I caught Mother throwing little packages of sandwiches into his window from the window in the passage above.

The Cordner-James’ moved from Abbey Road in 1920 and there would be two more owners of 3 Abbey Road before Gramophone would purchase the 103 year old house on Friday, June 28, 1929 and turn it into a recording studio. On June 6, 1962, The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Ringo strolled through the doors for the very first time to audition for George Martin.

In 1964, while The Beatles were busy becoming the greatest band the world has ever known, their leader, John Lennon published his first book – In His Own Write. His publisher was Jonathan Cape.


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I Saw The Beatles: Episode 11 with Mike Harper 

Welcome back to episode 11 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s very special guest is Mike Harper – an on-air personality at christian radio station 89.5 KVNE in Tyler, TX. When Mike was 8 years old, he and his older siblings attended the rained out Beatles concert at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, OH in August 1966. Hear about his experience and his thoughts on John Lennon’s 1966 controversial comments about The Beatles and Jesus.

Source: I Saw The Beatles: Episode 11 with Mike Harper 07/30 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 10 with Linda Cooper 

Welcome back to episode 10 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s guest is Beatle fan Linda Cooper who saw The Beatles perform live three times! And she got her picture in the paper while shrieking during one of the concerts. Linda is also featured in the book, We’re Going to See The Beatles! by Garry Berman.

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 10 with Linda Cooper 07/14 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 9 with Marti Carver 

Welcome back to episode 9 of I Saw The Beatles. This week, we talk to Marti Carver who got to see The Beatles play live in 1966 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on Aug 13th and then at Crosley Field in Cincinnati a couple weeks later. ————————————– Intro music by Cliff Hillis

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 9 with Marti Carver 07/12 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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